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Contribution of Subsoiling in Fallow Period and Nitrogen Fertilizer to the Soil-water Balance and Grain Yield of Dry-land Wheat.

Byline: Min Sun Zhi-qiang Gao Ai-xia Ren Yan Deng Wei-feng Zhao Hong-mei Zhao Zhen-ping Yang Li-heng He and Yu- zhen Zong

Abstract

Soil water conservation is crucial to the yield of dry-land wheat. The aim of this study was to explore an effective method to improve the water conservation and wheat yield in the Loess Plateau of Shanxi China. A two-factor split-plot design was performed in field with tillage practice (subsoiling and no tillage) as main plot and nitrogen (N) application (75 150 and 225 kghm-2) as subplot. Soil water storage (SWS) yield and its components and precipitation use efficiency (PUE) were determined. In fallow period subsoiling increased the SWS in the 0300 cm soil depth. In the growth period subsoiling not only had a positive effect on water storage at the over-wintering jointing and booting stages but also accelerated the water utilization in the 060 cm soil depth during sowing-jointing and jointing-anthesis stage and in the 180300 cm depth during anthesis-maturity stage. Consequently yield and PUE were significantly improved by increasing the spike number and grain number per spike.

Soil water storage declined as the concentration of N increased. Moreover subsoiling in fallow period combined with 150 kghm-2 N significantly increased the water utilization in the 060 cm depth at the early vegetative growth stage enhanced the water absorption by deep roots at late reproductive growth stages improved yield by increasing spike numbers and had a strong positive effect on PUE. Application of 150 kghm-2 N notably enhanced the promoting effects of subsoiling on soil water conservation water utilization and yield of dry-land wheat. Copyright 2014 Friends Science Publishers

Keywords: Dry-land wheat; Fallow period; Subsoiling; N application; Grain yield; Soil-water balance

Introduction

Water is one of the main constraints to productivity and quality of wheat and precipitation represents the main water source in dry-land wheat which is widely grown in the Loess Plateau of China (Timsina et al. 2001; Cabrera- Bosquet et al. 2007). About 6070% of annual precipitation occurs in fallow period from July to September in dry-land wheat (Zhang et al. 2013). The uneven distribution of rainfall and high evaporation in fallow period make it difficult to satisfy the crop water requirements during the plant growth stages leading to the decrease in grain yield. Hence improving water conservation within the soil profile is crucial to increase the yield of dry-land wheat.

Many studies have demonstrated that soil water storage (SWS) was significantly related to tillage practices such as no tillage (NT) and subsoiling (SS) (Jin et al. 2007; Hou et al. 2012). It has been reported that NT management decreases soil disturbance and reduces soil bulk density (Zhang et al. 2007). Application of SS which loses soil without turnover and breaks plow pan can improve SWS by facilitating infiltration (Mohanty et al. 2007). In the Loess Plateau area of Henan Province in China SS in summer fallow period resulted in the highest precipitation storage efficiency (PSE) precipitation use efficiency (PUE) and crop yield compared to other tillage practices (Jin et al. 2007).

Nitrogen (N) is an essential mineral nutrient for plant growth and development. N fertilizer improves soil fertility and crop productivity (Lopez-Bellido et al. 2012; Wang et al. 2012; Ahmad et al. 2013). Interactions between water and N fertilizer are complicated and may cause either positive or negative effects on plant growth and crop yield (Halvorson et al. 1991; Li et al. 2009; Khan et al. 2014). Studies have demonstrated that under proper irrigation condition increasing the level of N supply promoted the root development and N absorption (Halvorson et al. 1999; Morell et al. 2011) enhanced the osmotic adjustment capability and inhibited transpiration (Zhang et al. 2002). Nevertheless at present most studies mainly focused on the relationship between water irrigation and N fertilization and few studies have investigated the interaction among precipitation fertilization water conservation and crop production.

In this study we investigated the effects of SS and N fertilization rate on SWS PUE and grain yield in the Loess Plateau of Shanxi China to explore a valid water conservation method combined with an appropriate rate of N-application to improve the yield of dry-land wheat.

Materials and Methods

Experimental Field

The experiment was conducted between 2010 and 2011 in the Wenxi Experimental Station of Shanxi Agricultural University (35.35N 111.22E) which is located in the dry- land cropping region of the Loess Plateau in Shanxi China. This site has a warm temperate continental climate with an annual mean precipitation of 506 mm an annual mean temperature of 12.5C and an open pan evaporation of 1357.10 mm. The soil properties tested in July 2010 were (organic matter 8.65 g kg-1; total N 0.74 g kg-1; available N 32.93 mg kg-1; available phosphorus 20.08 mg kg-1). The data of precipitation at the experimental site including fallow period (from early July to early Oct) from sowing to over-wintering stage (from early Oct to late Nov) from over-wintering to jointing stage (from late Nov to early Apr in the following year) from jointing to anthesis stage (from early Apr to early May) and from anthesis to maturity (from early May to mid-Jun) were recorded.

Experimental Design

Yunhan 20410' a cultivar of winter wheat (Triticum aestivum) provided by Wenxi agriculture bureau was used in this study.

The layout for the experiment was a two-factor split- plot design with tillage practice in main plots and N application in subplots with three replicates. The experimental treatments included were 2 tillage practices SS and NT with three N rates (NH4NO3 75 150 and 225 kg hm-2). Each subplot was 5 m wide and 10 m long. Stubble (about 20 cm high) remained in fields after wheat harvest. About 2 weeks later SS was performed by a subsoiling fertilization machine (1ST-4

Liming

Machinery Manufacturing Co. Ltd. Jilin China) to a depth of 3040 cm on 1st July 2010. On 20th August rotary tillage was carried out to crumble large lumps level the fields and improve soil moisture. Phosphatic (P2O5 150 kg hm-2) potash (K2O 150 kg hm-2) and different rates of N (NH4NO3 75 150 and 225 kg hm-2) fertilizers were applied just before sowing. The seeds were sown in the experimental field at rate of 225A-104 hm-2 with a row spacing of 20 cm on 29th September.

Sampling and Measurement

Sampling and measurement were performed in fallow period (from early July to early Oct) and during different plant growth stages (sowing stage early Oct; over-wintering stage late Nov; jointing stage early Apr in the following year; anthesis stage early May; maturity stage mid-Jun). The SWS and water storage efficiency (WSE) were measured according to the previous studies (Ferraro and Ghersa 2007; Hou et al. 2012). Soil samples were taken in 20 cm increments from 0 to 300 cm during the fallow period and different growth stages of dry-land wheat from each subplot. The soil samples were weighed wet dried in oven at 105C for 48 h and weighed again to determine the soil water content and soil bulk density. Soil bulk density was expressed as the dry weight per unit volume of soil (g cm-3). The SWS in fallow period and at different wheat growth stages were calculated as below:

Soil water content (%) = (Wet weight-Dry weight)/Dry weightA-100. SWS (mm) = Soil water content A- Soil profile depthA-Soil bulk density.

WSE in fallow period was calculated as below: WSE = 6SWS/Pf A-100%. 6SWS SWS increment from the beginning to the end of fallow period in the 0300 cm soil depth; Pf precipitation in fallow period. At maturity stage yield components including spike number grain number per spike and thousand-grain weight were determined in a 20 m2 area of each subplot (Bustos et al. 2012). Grain yield was calculated as below:

Grain yield = Spike number A- Grain numbers per spike A- Thousand-grain weight/1000. was estimated as below (Hu et al. 2010):

Equation

Pg precipitation during wheat growing period; Pf precipitation during fallow period; g runoff coefficient during wheat growing period; f runoff coefficient during fallow period; P annual precipitation; ETf evapo- transpiration during the fallow period.

Equation

Statistical Analysis

All data were expressed as means SD. Differences were compared by t-test or one-way ANOVA followed Duncan's multiple-range test using SAS 9.0 software (SAS Corp Cary NC USA). Correlation between variables was assessed using Pearson's correlation coefficient within SAS. Comparisons with Pless than 0.05 were considered significantly different.

Results

Precipitation Distribution

Precipitation in the experimental field during fallow period and different growth stages of wheat during the study period and previous 5 years are shown in Table 1. The precipitation during 20102011 received (534.70 mm) was higher than the mean annual precipitation in the previous 5 years (405.4939.40 mm) (Pless than 0.05).

Table 1: Precipitation at the experimental site

Year###Precipitation (mm)

###Fallow period###Sowing-Over-wintering###Over-wintering-Jointing###Jointing-Anthesis###Anthesis-Maturity###Total

20052010 227.5830.46###46.909.84###35.5012.84###34.060.09###61.445.89###405.4939.40

20102011 401.50###27.10###19.10###22.20###64.80###534.70

Table 2: Effects of subsoiling on soil water storage in the 0-300 cm depth in fallow period of dry-land wheat

Tillage###Pf (mm)###SWSf (mm)###WSE (%)

###Initial stage###Terminal stage###

SS###401.50###289.00###442.964.68###38.351.17

NT###406.443.15###29.250.79

The precipitation in fallow period was higher than at growth stages accounted for 75% and 58% of annual precipitation during the study period and the previous 5 years respectively.

Effects of Subsoiling on SWS in Fallow Period

SWS at the soil depth of 0300 cm were tested in the fields with or without subsoiling treatment (Table 2). The results showed that in fallow period SS increased the SWS by 36.52 mm and the WSE was significantly increased by 31.10% (Pless than 0.05).

Effects of SS and N Fertilizer on SWS at Different Wheat Growth Stages

We found that SS significantly increased the SWS at the over-wintering jointing and booting stages (Pless than 0.05) except at booting stage when high level of N was applied (Table 3) suggesting that enhanced effect of SS on the water storage maintained to the booting stage of dry-land wheat. As the concentration of N increased the SWS declined in plots under subsoiling treatment at the over-wintering jointing booting and anthesis stages of dry-land wheat while similar pattern was observed in the non-tilled fields at the over-wintering jointing and booting stages (Table 3).

The SWS was decreased with the growth of wheat and a minimal level of SWS was observed at maturity stage. Therefore the effect of SS on decrease rate of SWS was investigated at different soil depths during the early vegetative growth period (from sowing to jointing stage) the middle growth period (from jointing to anthesis stage) and the late productive period (from anthesis and maturity stage) (Fig. 1). The results showed that SS accelerated the decrease rate of SWS in the 060 cm soil depth during sowing-jointing stage (Fig. 1A) and significantly increased in the 060 cm depth during jointing-anthesis stage (Fig. 1B) and in the 180300 cm depth during anthesis-maturity stage (Fig. 1C). The decrease rate of SWS during sowing- jointing stage in the 0120 cm depth declined as concentration of N increased (Fig. 1A).

Effects of SS and N Fertilizer on Yield of Dry-land Wheat

We found that SS significantly increased the spike numbers grain numbers per spike and yield under all tested N treatments and thousand-grain weight at low N application (Pless than 0.05) (Table 4). Spike numbers and yields in all tested subplots were highest under moderate level of N and lowest when low level of N was applied.

Correlation Analysis Between the Decrease Rate of SWS and Yield Components

To further investigate the relationship between the decreased rate of SWS at different growth stages in different soil depths and yield a correlation analysis was performed (Table 5). The results showed that during sowing-jointing stage spike number grain number per spike and yield had a positive correlation with the decrease rate of SWS in 0180 cm and 240 300 cm depths the 0180 cm depth and the 60120 cm depth (Pless than 0.05) respectively. During jointing-anthesis stage spike number showed a positive correlation with the decrease rate of SWS in the 060 cm depths (Pless than 0.01) and grain number per spike and yield were positively correlated with the decrease rate in the 0120 cm depth (Pless than 0.05). During anthesis-maturity stage spike number were negatively correlated with the decrease rate in 060 cm and 120180 cm soil depths (Pless than 0.05) while grain number per spike thousand-grain weight and yield showed a negative but not significant correlation.

Effects of SS and N Fertilization on Rainfall Use

In addition SS in fallow period significantly increased the PPUE by 15% (Table 5). The PUE at all tested N levels were also markedly enhanced by SS (Pless than 0.05). The PUE at moderate level of N was highest while lowest efficiency was found at low level of N (Table 6) indicating that subsoiling combined with application of 150 kg hm-2 N was optimum.

Table 3: Effects of subsoiling and nitrogen fertilizer on soil water storage in the 0-300 cm depth at different growth stages of dry-land wheat

Tillage###N supply (kg hm-2)###SWS (mm)

###Over-wintering###Jointing stage###Booting stage###Anthesis###Maturity

Sub-soiling###75###414.351.00 a###378.752.18 a###341.251.30 a###313.092.93 a###268.411.36 a

###150###402.854.00 b###370.121.28 b###325.710.87 b###294.112.49 b###253.734.79 b

###225###382.062.62 c###344.072.76 c###293.102.86 c###281.222.87 c###245.071.48 b

No tillage###75###394.720.89 a###365.091.64 a###321.641.82 a###306.042.39 a###262.362.84 a

###150###384.524.14 b###352.393.09 b###309.930.46 b###284.996.14 b###247.984.30 b

###225###369.692.78 c###338.784.43 c###302.770.50 c###279.244.24 b###238.241.74 b

Table 4: Effect of subsoiling and nitrogen fertilizer on yield and its component of dry-land wheat

Tillage###N supply (kg hm-2)###Spike number (104 hm-2)###Grain number per spike###Thousand-grain weight (g)###Yield (kg hm-2)

Sub-soiling###75###403.463.13 c###27.500.06 b###38.980.20 b###4121.5418.69 c

###150###428.040.29 a###28.250.64 ab###41.400.52 a###4462.4243.76 a

###225###411.371.39 b###29.490.52 a###40.550.43 a###4214.406.58 b

No tillage###75###392.683.45 b###26.160.72 a###37.350.14 b###3241.3932.09 c

###150###405.040.29 a###25.710.30 a###40.810.01 a###3689.1789.82 a

###225###399.623.54 ab###25.610.68 a###41.050.11 a###3511.0313.05 b

Table 5: Correlation analysis between the decrease rate of soil water storage at different growth stages and yield

Growth stage###Soil depths (cm)###Spike number###Grain number per spike###Thousand-grain weight###Yield

SowingJointing###0-60###0.8793###0.7664###0.6307###0.7305

###60-120###0.9324###0.9051###0.4927###0.8283

###120-180###0.9457###0.8804###0.4218###0.6892

###180-240###0.6335###0.3310###0.5698###0.1569

###240-300###0.8985###0.7276###0.7412###0.7422

JointingAnthesis###0-60###0.9259###0.8710###0.5726###0.9236

###60-120###0.6695###0.9216###0.0187###0.8415

###120-180###-0.0758###-0.1596###0.5808###0.4052

###180-240###-0.1602###0.0063###0.1422###0.4086

###240-300###-0.5832###-0.5642###0.1890###-0.1491

AnthesisMaturity###0-60###-0.8720###-0.6205###-0.3229###-0.3406

###60-120###-0.6037###-0.2491###-0.2560###0.0169

###120-180###-0.8299###-0.4495###-0.5803###-0.4063

###180-240###0.5375###0.2637###0.2999###0.0642

###240-300###0.0316###0.3320###-0.7114###0.0037

Table 6: Effects of subsoiling and N fertilizer on rainfall use in dry-land wheat

Tillage###N supply (kg hm-2)###Pf (mm)###Pg (mm)###PPUE (%)###PUE (kghm-2mm-1)

Subsoiling###75###401.50###133.20###53.700.88###7.710.03 c

###150###8.350.08 a

###225###7.880.01 b

Notillage###75###46.870.59###6.060.06 c

###150###6.900.17 a

###225###6.570.02 b

Discussion

It has been reported that wheat in eastern part of the Loess Plateau of China needs about 480 mm water for maximum yield (Wang 1994). Although the annual precipitation during 2010 to 2011 was 534 mm at the experimental site of this study it was mainly concentrated in fallow period (Table 1). Thus improving water conservation within the soil profile is crucial to increase the yield of dry-land wheat.

Many evidences have demonstrated that water storage was significantly related to tillage practice (Jin et al. 2007; Hou et al. 2012). In our study SS was performed 2 weeks after the previous crop harvested. We found that SS had a beneficial effect on SWS and WSE in fallow period indicating that SS could create favorable conditions for timely sowing and subsequent germination of dry-land wheat. Our findings further supported the contribution of SS to water storage. Similar results were observed in the fallow period of 20092010. However soil degradation caused by continuous tillage is known to reduce water-use efficiency and crop yield (Cabrera-Bosquet et al. 2007). It has been reported that interval of NT and SS could improve soil physical and chemical properties and thus significantly increase crop yields and water-use efficiency (Cabrera- Bosquet et al. 2007).

Thus it needs to be further explored whether successive SS or interval of NT and SS is suitable for the wheat growth in the Loess Plateau area of Shanxi Province in China.

Earlier reports indicate that tillage increased SWS in 0200 cm soil depth at the whole growth stages of wheat (Deng et al. 2011). In our study SS showed significant positive effects on SWS in the 0300 cm soil depth from the over-wintering to anthesis stage but not at the maturity stage. Further study demonstrated that SS accelerated the water utilization at 060 cm depth during the early and middle growth stages of wheat and promoted the water usage in deep soil layers (180300 cm). Wheat plants utilize water from shallow soil layer (050 cm depth) at the seedling stage while water from middle and deep layers (50200 cm depth) was absorbed at the late vegetative growth stages and the reproductive growth stage (Wang et al. 2012) confirms present study findings. After application of SS soil become loosen and plow pan is broken which improves SWS by facilitating infiltration (Mohanty et al. 2007).

During later growth stages of wheat the root systems are well developed to utilize the water stored in middle and deep layer.

Furthermore we found that increasing the level of N supply had a significant negative effect on SWS in the 0 300 soil depth at the over-wintering jointing and booting stages in the non-tilled plots while this regulatory effect of N application extended to the anthesis stage when SS was performed in fallow period of dry-land wheat. Application of moderate N rate significantly enhanced the SS-increased water utilization in the 060 cm soil depth at the early and middle growth stage of wheat which contributed to increase of spike number optimization of the yield structure and thereby improvement of the yield. In addition moderate level of N treatment promoted the SS-increased water absorption in the 180240 cm soil depth at the late productive growth stage which improved the PUE. However high N level negatively affected the yield and PUE compared to the moderate N level. N fertilization is a common practice to increase crop production

But the optimum N fertilization rate varies depends on soil water status which influences the osmotic potential (Li et al. 2009; Guo et al. 2012). The results indicated that SS in fallow period combined with moderate level of N (150 kg hm-2) had the strongest effect on the yield of dry-land wheat by increasing the spike numbers.

Conclusion

In conclusion we demonstrated that SS exhibited beneficial effects on SWS yield and PUE which could be enhanced by application of 150 kg hm-2 N. Our findings had significant implications for optimizing tillage practice and N

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